Part 2: To Ice or Not To Ice?
Posted on Aug 5, 2020
If you’ve ever twisted an ankle or strained your back, you probably iced it right away because doctors and physical therapists almost always recommend the RICE approach – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Allopathic medicine says that ice halts the inflammation process associated with an acute injury and reduces the pain.
But is correct and the best way to treat an injury? The Journal of Emergency Medicine says there is insufficient evidence that ice helps injury, and the American Journal of Sports Medicine explains that ice causes a backup of lymph, which pumps back into the area of the injury, causing more swelling and even slower healing.
Icing an area reduces nerve conduction, initially fighting pain but ultimately slowing down the body’s healing response. Our bodies also use inflammation in complex ways to remove damaged cells and initiate the healing process. Despite the information against using ice, “To ice or not to ice?” is a question we ask every time we get injured or feel pain.
Let’s remember what is wrong with ice. Cold congeals, rather than promoting flow. The cold from ice significantly slows the healing process because it stagnates the blood and energy in the injured area. This congestion prevents fresh blood and nutrients from entering, and waste products from leaving the injured area. This creates long-term pain, swelling and weakness, and heightens the possibility of re-injury.
A better approach is to focus on improving the circulation of qi and blood to reduce swelling and promote healing. We can do this by:
- Acupuncture: Needling is one of the most effective and quickest ways to stimulate the flow of qi and blood and reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.
- Herbal medicine: If the area is hot and inflamed, I use cold or cooling herbs. I may also recommend compresses or soaks. If the area is cold or stagnant, I use gentle heat and warming herbs to stimulate circulation. In both situations, we are stimulating circulation and bringing the tissues back to normal temperatures.
- Elevation: Elevating an injured area will prevent blood from stagnating due to gravity.
- Movement: Physiologically, muscle contraction is primarily responsible for moving fluid through the lymph system. Gently moving and exercising the injured area eliminates fluid that creates swelling.
Filed in Current Health News
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